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The Royal Ballet

Triple Bill

by Ana Abad-Carles

October 13, 2006 -- Royal Opera House, London

The Royal Ballet opened its new season at the Royal Opera House with an interesting Triple Bill of choreographies made by different artists during the seventies that the company has acquired at different times during its history. The programme opened with George Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”, a work that was part of Dowell’s legacy to the company during his time as director. The ballet is Balanchine at its best. It is eloquent, amazingly musical and, though plotless, it contains so many moods and feelings that it is one of those pieces where it is easy to see that plotless does not equal meaningless.

On the evening I attended, the main roles were danced by Leanne Benjamin, Ricardo Cervera, Darcey Bussell and Edward Watson. Bussell and Watson in the first pas de deux were brilliant in their interpretation of the nervous anxiety of the music. Both of them rallied through the ballet with unusual zest and daringness. Benjamin and Cervera lacked the stage personas to carry their second pas de deux forward and make an impact in it. It is one of the most beautiful pas de deux in its desolate nature, its acceptance of loss, and yet, the couple did not seem to reach the profundity of its many layers of interpretation.

The second work in the evening was “Voluntaries”, created by Glen Tetley after the death of his friend John Cranko for the Stuttgart Ballet. The ballet is a monument to death and a personal farewell to a friend by those who originally danced it. From the anguish and total despair of the main couple – originally Marcia Haydeé and Richard Cragun – to the more contemplative and serene stance of the trio. On this occasion the main roles were taken by Alina Cojocaru and Federico Bonelli, and the lead woman in the trio –originally danced by Birgit Keil – was Sarah Lamb. Both women were wonderful. I had not seen Cojocaru giving such a heartfelt performance before. Her body broke and soared in an attempt to overcome her grief. Unfortunately, Bonelli was not her equal. A very academic dancer, he seems unable to make that wonderful transition from classroom onto stag.  Lamb was joined by Thiago Soares and Rupert Pennefather, who were more than accomplished partners and whose stage presence was a match to Lamb’s beautiful interpretation. Special mention must go to Steven McRae who soared through the ballet and made a wonderful impression leading the ensemble in his appearances.

The evening closed with Jirí Kylián’s “Sinfonietta”. On this occasion McRae had plenty of opportunity to make an impression on the audience as he was given one of the leading male roles. The wonderful thing about this young dancer is that he seems to combine perfect physique and technique with an unfailing determination to make the most of whatever he is given. His sincerity and enthusiasm on stage rarely fail to engage the audience.

“Sinfonietta” was new to me on the stage and, I have to admit, out of the three works, it was the one that looked the most dated. I believe that Kylián has been a victim of his own success; the passing of time has seen so may works “after Sinfonietta” that the piece looks terribly dejá vu. Still, it is a very musical piece with some beautiful ensemble moments.

The dancing during the evening was fine, though hats off to the wonderful scores chosen by the three choreographers that provided one of the most outstanding evenings at the Royal Opera House for a very long time. Stravinsky, Poulenc and Janácek provided scores to three master choreographers who did not hesitate to make full use of the musical possibilities of such works. Rarely does one see so much musicality in the dancers of the company as on an evening like this.

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